The first woman to lead the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) as National Chief was in Saik’uz last week.
RoseAnne Archibald stopped in the Indigenous community near Vanderhoof on Tuesday, July 20, where she met with Carrier Sekani Tribal Council members.
Saik’uz Chief Priscilla Mueller said they had to scramble to make plans as it wasn’t until late Thursday they were informed she would be coming through. “But we already had a scheduled chiefs’ meeting that day, so it worked actually perfect for her to stop by,” Mueller said.
“We were pretty excited to have her visit our community.
All chiefs of the seven member nations, including Wet’suwet’en, Tl’azt’en, Ts’il Kaz Koh, Takla Lake, Nadleh Whut’en, Stellat’en and Saik’uz had a chance to speak with Archibald.
Mueller said one of the main topics was residential school sites where unmarked graves of children are being found across Canada.
“We would like her to bring some of our concerns back to Ottawa to our Prime Minister, and we’d like an investigation and closure,” Mueller said.
The Saik’uz Chief said Canadians need to see what happened during the residential school era and believes the B.C. Government’s commitment of up to $475,000 for each community to investigate Indian residential schools won’t be enough.
There were 18 Indian Residential Schools in the province, including Lejac near Fraser Lake, and three Indian Hospitals.
Several other topics also emerged during the hour-long meeting, including the opioid crisis and housing.
Mueller said many of their members who do not have housing end up in cities such as Prince George and Vancouver, where they struggle with drug and or alcohol addiction.
“We find a lot of our members not only in Saik’uz but in other communities that are dying from the opioid crisis,” she said.
The growing community has more than 1,000 members but is home to fewer than 400 and is in need of more housing. Overcrowded homes are also an issue, and many homes need a lot of maintenance due to their age to continue to be inhabitable.
“Another thing is we talked about our resources coming out of our territory and that we want to be part of those decisions whether its pipeline or forestry,” Mueller added.
Later that day, Archibald visited Prince George, where she had met with Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan.
Mueller said is she confident they will meet with her again.
Archibald wasn’t the first AFN National Chief to come to Saik’uz, as the community had hosted Ovide Mercredi in the 1990s, which Mueller remembered.
“But with Chief Archibald, it was very exciting because she is the first woman national chief in the history of that organization.”